Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fiber ~ drying the skein

I hang skeins by our fireplace (in the cold weather months) to dry:

After it's dry, I can put it into a ball and start knitting!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fiber ~ washing

I've had some comments asking when I wash the fiber. There are many ways to do this, and different spinners will do things in a different order. There was a time I washed the fiber after skirting it and before flicking it. After doing this quite a few times, we've settled on waiting to wash it until it's in yarn form. For one thing, you should wash it at this point anyway, to set the twist in the yarn. The other thing we found is that washing it earlier on messes up the organization of the alpaca fiber, making it harder to flick and spin.

Anytime you wash alpaca you have to be careful about not felting the fiber. The combination of heat, water and aggitation can felt the fiber. I've read this can happen very easily, so I have always been careful of this. But I also should say that in the three years I've been working with this fiber, I've never had it accidentally felt on me. But as a caution, I do try to be careful of this.

I fill the kitchen sink with hot water (about as hot as I would for washing dishes). I put in about as much Dawn dish washing soap as I could for a sink full of dishes. I gently put the skein of yarn in the sink:

I let it sit in this hot soapy water for about 20 minutes. I make sure not to aggitate it, just let it sit there.

After those 20 minutes are up, I gently pull the skein out, squeeze it very lightly. I hold the skein while I drain the sink. I then fill the sink with hot water, no soap this time. I sit it in there for about 5 minute. I gently squeeze the skien, and hold it while I drain the sink. I fill the sink one more time with plain water (no soap) and let it sit for about 15 minutes. The time on these can be changed, you just want to make sure the soap has a chance to get the grim out, and the yarn has a chance to sit in water with out soap to get the soap out I find a lot of the dirt sifts out during those two water only soaks.

This is what the yarn looks like by this point:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fiber ~ a skein

I make a skein of yarn with my swift. I find it easier to use than a niddy noddy.

I made hash marks on the post of my swift, marking where the bottom lever needs to be so that I can make either a 1 yard, 1.5 yard, or 2 yard skein:

I take the yarn from the spinning wheel:

And wrap it on the swift:

I tied the skein in three spots with a separate strand of yarn so that when I take if off the swift it stays as a skein.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fiber ~ plying

You can make single strand yarn skeins, doubles or triple ply. I'm pretty boring in that I always make a double, a two plyed skein.

I take two bobbins (it's best not to let these get too full with the single strand on there, since once they are plyed, they will take up more more room):

I ply the two strands together:

I did a little too much on each strand, I barely could fit the two plyed yarn on one of my bobbins:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Way to Buy Local

I have posted a lot about how to buy from small local businesses, but that focus has been mostly on products one can buy. I've skipped over a big way one can support local alpaca farmers, and that is to buy ALPACAS!!

We love our animals and take pride in producing quality fiber producing alpacas. But, it is a business, and part of a business is sales. We have been thrilled with the sales we have made so far, and are eager to help others begin (or continue) their adventure with alpacas.

I would encourage anyone thinking about getting into alpacas to contact local alpaca farmers to take a tour of their farms. Knowledge is very important, so learn as much as you can before that first purchase. Many experienced farmers regret some of their earlier purchases because they didn't have the knowledge to make an informed choice on which alpaca to purchase. Meet as many alpaca farmers as you can. Along the way, you will make many friends, you will then have someone to call when a crisis comes up, and you will choose who you most want to purchase your alpacas from.

We love farm visits! So please, email us or give us a call to schedule a time, we'd love to show you around our farm. These visits aren't about pushing sales, so don't worry about a sales pitch. Sales happen when you find the alpaca you want, and that may be at our farm, but it may be at another farm also. You don't even have to want to buy an alpaca to come and visit. We can talk alpaca, fiber, or whatever interests you. These visits are about educating and having fun talking alpaca (which I LOVE to do). So please, give me an excuse to gab about my passion, alpacas!

We have our sales list
on AlpacaNation: Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC
and at Open Herd: Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC

Both of those websites, AlpacaNation and Open Herd, list many alpaca farms around the country, so look around to find farms local to you. Call them up and arrange a time to visit.

J keeps very informed on what alpacas are out there and has become a pro at finding whatever it is that we are looking for. If someone has a particular alpaca in mind, and we don't have that on our farm, J will find it. Alpaca farmers are a network and we work together to help each other. Whatever I have wanted, he has found and brought home for me. He is happy to use that skill to help others also.

Free Shipping

Use this code at our Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC Esty Shop for free shipping! This code is good from now until Dec. 1, 2011.

Code: oakhavenfreedelivery

This code is good on anything listed in the shop. Here are some of the products we have at our shop:

Infant's Ear Flap Hat:

Children's Ear Flap Hat:

Teenager's Ear Flap Hat:

All three hats were made completely at our farm. We owned the alpacas who grew the fiber, which was shorn off them in the spring. I took this shorn fiber, prepared it, and spun it into 100% alpaca hand spun yarn. Then we knit this alpaca yarn into these hats. Alpaca is a wonderful product: soft, warm and comfortable to wear.

Black Friday

While I am not one to go out shopping on this Black Friday, I do want to encourage those who are beginning their holiday shopping to consider buying from small local businesses. This could be a mom and pop store in your own town, or a small company selling on-line. It could be from your neighbor, or sister or friend.

Many hand made things can be found on Etsy.com

While we don't have a lot of products on our web site, there there are a few:
Oak Haven Alpacas

Note: I wasn't actually up at 5 a.m. to write this. I wrote it ahead of time and had blogger post it for me. It just seemed fitting, when thinking about Black Friday shopping, that it would post in the wean hours of the morning. I, in fact, will be asleep at that time :) When I do get up (on my own, without an alarm clock), I will feed my alpacas, and spend my Friday off of work spinning yarn. I have some of Twilight's fiber already on my spinning wheel waiting for me to spin - I can't wait!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you and your family have a very blessed Thanksgiving.

I will be eating lots of food, and afterward, spinning lots of fiber.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fiber ~ drafting

Drafting is how you go from a cloud of fiber, to a strand of yarn. Of course the spinning wheel spins, and that's what twists the fiber into yarn. But I don't usually think about what the spinning wheel is doing. I get a nice rhythm going pedling the spinnig wheel, which doesn't take much thought. It's the drafting that gets my focus.

I take a cloud of fiber:

I put the cloud of fiber in my lap, pushing it up with where the strand is coming off my spinning wheel. On my lap is a cloud of fiber, on the spinning wheel is a strand of yarn, with my hands in the middle. Between my two hands is where drafting is taking place:

There are different techniques to drafting that will create different kinds of yarn. I admit, I'm not that experienced of a spinner for any of that. I know I could do it, I just haven't ventured to learn it yet. So far I've stuck with basic drafting of pulling the fibers smoother between my hands, and letting them twist after it goes through my 2nd hand, closer to the spinning wheel.

All this creates a strand of yarn:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fiber ~ getting out the spinning wheel

Finally after all this prep work, I am ready to get out my spinning wheel.

On my wheel I have a string attached to each bobbin:

The string stays on the bobbin, it's how one starts with attaching fiber to the spinning wheel to spin it into yarn. The string is tied so that it has a loop at the end.

I feed several strands of fiber through the loop of the string:

I pull those strands straight so that I can being to draft the fiber:

Drafting is the big magic part of making yarn, it's the whole key right there! So, I will save that for my next blog post.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fiber ~ flicking: part 2

I received a lot of great questions about flicking raw fiber, so I wanted to talk a little more about it. It's really hard to explain, so much easier to show someone in person, but I will try my best with words and pictures.

In reply to what is a flicker, it is a small brush with metal teeth, like a mini carder:

The idea of flicking fiber is similar to carding it - both methods take a bundle of fiber and loosen it so that it can be spun into yarn.

This is a bundle of Twilight's fiber:

I take the flicker, and brush down the length of the bundle (I was home alone so had to take a picture of this myself, not the best, but I think you can see how it goes):

I brush in one direction, down, which separates the bundle on one tip end, but not the tip end that is in my hand. I flip it around so that I can get the other tip end too. That way the entire length of the fiber is flicked.

Flicking it makes the fiber feel smooth, so that it can slip into a twist and make a strand of yarn:

Here is it flicked:

I make it into a cloud (which can be used similar to roving or batts for spinning into yarn) (note the cloud is of Greyt's fiber, so if you thought the color looked different it is):

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Age old question

If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is there, does it make a sound?

Well, this past week I learned if I fall in the alpaca's pasture and scream, no one in the house will hear me!

This past week was an entirely new routine for our family. J started his new job, which means a regular work weeks schedule, day shifts Monday through Friday (after 9 years of him working off shift, this was a huge change for our family). Part of my new routine is to get up a little earlier so that I can feed the alpacas in the morning. When I get out there, it is still dark. One morning while carrying a big load of hay, I stumbled on a tree stump and fell flat on my face! Of course mid fall I let out a very loud scream. I wasn't hurt, thankfully, but definitely embarrassed!! I sort of thought someone from inside the house would look out to see if I was ok, but no. Later they told me they never heard a thing. The alpacas sure heard me. They ran as far away as they could, when I screamed. But the interesting thing is that when I was getting up, they came near me, as a herd, and a couple of them sniffed my back. I'd like to think they were checking to see if I was ok. But really, I think they just wanted me to get that fresh hay in their bins.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fiber ~ flicking

I know many people prefer carding fiber to prepare it to be made into yarn. To be honest, initially that was my plan. But when I found out I could flick the fiber instead of carding, I decided to try that first. A flicker is cheaper than carders, and it's quicker. But, it doesn't produce the smooth end result that carding does. This means I create worsted yarn, rather than woollen yarn. Although, reading this description, I think I do a combination of these two:

Handspinning Woollen and Worsted Yarn

Woollen and worsted yarn are two types of yarn that can be handspun. Both types require different fiber preparation on spinning techniques.

Woollen Yarn
Woollen yarn is spun using a short staple fiber that is prepared by handcarding and rolled into rolags. A drumcarder can also be used. When spinning the fiber the long draw or medium draw technique is used to allow the fiber to wrap upon itself while trapping air in the center. This makes the yarn soft and bouncy. This yarn is best used for garments that will not be subjected to harsh wear, such as light weight knits. It can also be used for garments that will later go through a fulling process, such as blankets, coats, and jackets. Fulling is a process that contracts the yarn in a knitted garment and makes the fabric stronger.

Worsted Yarn
Worsted yarn is spun using a long staple fiber that is prepared by combing with dutch combs or a flicker carder, to keep the fibers parallel, and to remove the shorter ones. When spinning, the worsted technique is used, in which, the fiber is first drafted and then twisted using the thumb and forefinger to flatten the loose fibers. This makes a stronger yarn that can be used for hard wearing garments, rugs, blankets, and warp for weaving.

The focus of flicking or carding is to take a bundle of fiber, and separate it so that it can be spun into yarn. A bundle intact would make for lumpy yarn. It's the separated fibers that mix together that makes a strand of yarn. If the bundle remains together, it wouldn't mix and there would be lumps and bumps and tender spots between bundles in the yarn.

Here is my bag of unflicked fiber from our herd sire, Greyt:

Here is my basket of flicked fiber:

This picture shows the contrast, first the flicked bundle, then the intact bundle:

It was impossible to take a picture of myself flicking the fiber (I only have so many hands), so here is the next best thing. I have the flicker in my hand, ready to flick. I put a bucket (the orange bucket) underneath where I am flicking because bits of hay and other debris does fall when I flick it:

Next weeks blog posts will be about spinning this skirted, weighed, tumbled and flicked fiber into yarn.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fiber ~ tumbling

You can send your alpaca fiber to a mill where they will do all these things for you. But since I've been doing this all myself, J made me my own tumbler. He took a dryer that someone was selling super cheap because the heat didn't always work. Well, we won't ever hook this up to heat (heat would felt the alpaca fiber).

My tumbler in my fiber room:

The tumbler not only tumbles the fiber, but there are long nails on magnets that pull apart and help separate the alpaca fiber, making more dirt and debris fall out. There are three lines of these nail prongs:

Up closer:

The point of the tumbler is to clean out the fiber. Since we have sandy soil, it's especially important that we take this extra step.

After tumbling, the next step is flicking (some people do carding instead, which is very similar but I have found flicking easier for me to do). I'll post about this in tomorrows blog entry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fiber ~ two batches

After skirting the fiber, I then weigh out a bunch of fiber, usually two bags of 6 ounces each. I make 2 batches because when I make it into yarn, I like to have two strands plyed in my yarn. And, if I do my best to have them the same weight, then I have a chance of making the two strands the same length so my yarn will match up (or at least close to matching up). I sometimes do a bit bigger skein of yarn, but more than 8 ounces per batch isn't worth it because it won't fit on my spinning wheel. I used to do mostly 4 ounce batches, but I found there was a bit of time saving in going a bit bigger in the 6 ounce batches. These two 6 ounce batches, by the time they are plyed together makes about a 10 ounce skein of yarn (by the time everything else is done it does lose some weight).

Here are two batches, weighed and set aside:

Next step ~ tumbling the fiber. This I will talk about in my next blog post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fiber ~ skirting

I thought I would use this week to write about preparing alpaca fiber to make it into yarn. Next week I will focus my blog posts on spining that prepared fiber into yarn. Maybe the next week I can focus on knitting, but I may be getting ahead of myself already.

Fiber is the name for the alpaca's fur/wool/hair. It is the ultimate end product created by alpacas.

Each spring we shear our alpacas, and collect this wonderful fiber. After our yearly shearing, we put their fiber in a bag.

When I want to make something with the fiber, I grab the bag that has the color I want. I took these pictures with Twilight's fiber (she is a dark silver grey, though her fiber looks black in these picture).

The first step is skirting. Here is our skirting table:

J made this skirting table for me out of wire shelving (like what you would use in a closet). It works perfect for skirting!

I lay out the fiber and pick out any debris, like this seed head:

Or bits of hay:

Another trick we do, during skirting, is to hold onto one end of a handful of fiber, and shake it:

I then flip it over, hang onto the other end, and shake it again. What this does is shake loose the dreaded 2nd cuts. Second cuts are shorter fibers that happen during shearing when the shearer has to go over one spot more than once. The better the shearer the less second cuts, but even an accomplished pro will have some.

In this picture is a regular bundle of fiber (middle of the picture), and the shorter second cuts (in the lower right corner). Sorry the lighting on this picture is so dreadful, I actually retook this picture several times and this is the best I could get. This is why I am not a professional photographer LOL:

You possibly could use second cuts but most people skirt them out. I skirt them out and throw them into our refuse bin. When that bin is full, we throw it in the woods. I figure birds and small rodents can use these to help build their homes/nests.

Once I have most of the debris picked out and the second cuts removed, I am done skirting.

Next step ~ weighing out batches of fiber

Deer Day

As a child growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I was quite sheltered from the concept of "Deer Day." To my county kids, this means a day off of school (while they love school, a day off is a nice treat too). Deer Day is what they call the first day of Open Season on Deer, this day is the opening of riffle season (as opposed to bow season which was several weeks ago, and never gets the same publicity). The kids' school district actually gives them this day off school. I have heard there was a year they tried to have school and it didn't go over well. In a community like this, you have generations of people who grew up spending deer day as a family. It's more than just a hunting trip, it's a yearly event.

My concerns on Deer Day center around the fact I have alpacas in the my back yard, some of whom are brown/tan/fawn color and *could* look like deer from a distance. Add on that our land butts up against many acres of state land, and you can see how I would be concerned about a confused hunter (hunters are allowed to hunt in state land). Each year I feel less concerned, being we have never had an issue. But I will say Spot was barking an awful lot this morning, and I did hear several gun shots before I got out of bed. I did a quick head count of our alpacas and everyone is accounted for.

My former self, that suburbanite, would have thought deer hunting was rather barbaric. Now having lived in the country for several years, I have a different take on it. The fact is there are deer. Eventually these deer will die. I would rather it was fast, by a hunter who will eat the meat and mount the head, then have these animals die by starvation or by hitting my car. So on that note I will wish all the hunters "happy hunting" and hope they find the perfect buck.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tag Line

As I mentioned in a previous post, we've been working on a new tag line that encompasses the goals we have for our farm. We are excited to have come across a great way to put what we've been doing all along:

Breeding Brightness You Can Feel

Like all alpaca farmers, we are aiming to breed alpacas to produce superior fiber. J has read that if alpacas have very bright fiber, it comes along with other qualities that makes their fiber feel good, such as a low scale height. Our focus has been on the handle of the fiber, because the end result is that we want fiber that feels good, and can be made into quality alpaca products. That brightness and the excellent handle that comes along with it is exactly what we have been doing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wall of fame

In our basement we set aside a wall to display our alpaca's ribbons. This isn't even all the ribbons. The alpacas we are still showing (Rose, Twilight, Gabe, and Challenger) we kept their ribbons out to display at show, and some of the alpacas we have sold/trader we gave their ribbons to their new owners.

November ~ new beginnings

I know November isn't typically a time of year we think of new and renewed (usually that's more of a spring phenomenon). But, it seems our family has had a lot of changes that happen this time of year. While not exactly November, our first child was born in October. Of all the changes, becoming a parent was by far the most life altering. December is the month when J and I got married, another big life event (and if you average October and December you get November).

In 2000 we started building our house in November. This time of year makes me remember coming back here to see the foundation and slowly the progress being made on our house. Since J did most of the work on the house, it took until August of 2001 to finish (I did some of the work, like painting, but Emma was little back then, so I spent my time taking care of her).

In 2007 our first alpacas arrived at our farm! It was such an exciting day. In some ways it feels like just yesterday, and in other ways, I marvel at how much has changed since then. We started out with 3 alpacas (2 bred females and a gelding). Now we have a farm of 22 alpacas!

This year, 2011, J is starting a new job in November. It's a big change for him in that he will be going to a different hospital, in a different city (about the same distance he was driving to his former job). It's a huge change for our entire family because for the last 9 years he's worked off shifts (either 3rd shift or 2nd shift). For the most part he picked working off shift (there are benefits such as a shift differential in more per hour pay, and the hospital is less busy at night). But as the kids have gotten older, and J has moved up into management, the idea of working days has had it's appeal. The kids don't remember a time J worked days (Zack was 6 months old, and Emma was 3 years old, when J went back to school and we started down that journey). It's going to be a lot of changes at our house! For one, we've been used to J working every other or every 3rd weekend - now no officially scheduled weekends. In addition, he'll be home every night, and sleep a regular night (I'm less happy about sharing the TV at night but that's only one small sacrifice).

Also this year, as we begin our 5th year as alpaca farmers, we decided to change our Tag Line. A tag line is the theme and goal you have for your farm. Most farms publish it as part of their advertising. When we started looking into alpacas, we were encouraged by many people in the business to come up with a tag line and focus our farm towards something. The big thing right then was to specialize in Grey and Black alpacas. There were also farms that specialized in whites, but it was well known that the white classes were the hardest to compete in. (And right away from the start I was drawn to the variety of colors of alpacas, white never had an appeal to me). I didn't want to focus on only one color. I love ALL the colors, and wanted a farm of many different colors. We had people discourage this line of thinking, saying it's hard to do that. Now after being in the business for a few years, I stand by our original idea to breed for all colors. It is possible, we've been doing it! And really, it's hard not to (since every alpaca has two color genes, what color they are is not what they will pass onto all of their offspring). Our original tag line focused on the fact I wanted alpaca fiber in lots of different natural colors to use in crafts, and J's focus has always been on the superior and diverse genetics. This lead to our original tag line of: "Combining the best genetics to produce the best alpacas in a variety of colors for crafters." After we had business cards made and our farm signs made with this tag line, we quickly decided there were problems with it. While it is our goal, it was way too long! And I think it was an over reaction to the idea we shouldn't do all the colors. Instead of focusing on "hey we are doing all the colors even though some of you said we shouldn't" we should focus on incredible fiber, since that is our main goal anyway. Over the last four years we have been working on ideas for a new tag line, something shorter that captures our niche. We wanted it to really fit our farm, so we've been slow to develop it, to make sure it's right. We finally figured it out, but more on that in another post.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I apologize for the lack of pictures on the blog lately. I know pictures are worth 1000 words. We have had some technical difficulties, but hope to have pictures up and running sometime this week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Kicker

Alpacas are very passive and stoic creatures. They are rarely if ever aggressive. Their initial instinct is to run. And let me tell you, if you need to get a hold of one to do herd heath or halter them to take them somewhere, their running instinct shows! Some of them will spit if they are cornered. We find it is usually the older pregnant girls who do this. Usually the younger ones do not spit. We have had a male spit at times but that seems more rare. Pregnant woman in general are more ornery, it only makes sense that they are there to protect their young. Don't mess with a mama bear, or a mama alpaca.

My favorite alpaca response are the ones who growl. Our own Maddie will do this sometimes during herd health. I will hold her so J can give her a shot and I can feel and hear this growl in her throat. Her daughter, Twilight, also does this. It's an unusual cute sound, though I do feel bad that they are upset enough to growl, it's more like a whimper I would make when having to have a shot.

I would say alpacas never bite, but we had an incident of biting a couple weeks ago. We were trimming nails on the older boys. I was holding Greyt while J clipped his nails. While clipping Greyt's nails, Tucker came over and bit J on the ear! Alpacas only have one set of teeth so they can't do much harm by biting, but it is a pinch and can hurt.

Other than running or spitting, their other main defense is kicking. I have had my fair share of being kicked, usually during herd health. I can hardly blame them when we handle them to give them shots. I don't care for shots either! Occasionally we'll have an animal who kicks a lot. They will even do an air kick when you walk by, as if they were hoping to catch you. We have discovered that Sig is one of those kind of alpacas. It is a fact that he was used by a vet school for training on starting IVs. I can't help but wonder if that experience traumatized him to the point he doesn't trust any humans. In many ways that is sad.

At the alpaca show last weekend I was trying to get a hold of Challenger so that I could let some people feel his fiber. While trying to catch him, Sig thought I was after him and he gave me a good kick. I still have a huge bruise on the back of my leg from that! Sig is only about 80 pounds, so it's not that their kicks are dangerous (nothing like a horse kick), but they do hurt and the bruises they make are not pretty.

When we were haltering all the alpacas to leave the show late Sunday afternoon, Sig was still on the defense. I should have known better, but I let Zack lead Sig and Gabe out to the trailer. As you might already guess, while walking, Sig gave a back kick and hit Zack square on his upper thigh. I should back track to explain that Zack is a very sensitive guy. He's also an animal activist (and a vegetarian of sorts). He has already told me that he does not think alpacas enjoy going to alpaca shows and he does not think we should take them. I would agree that alpaca shows can be stressful for them. We have found the more shows we go to, the more used to it they get, and the less stressed they appear. This fall we only went to one show, and it was Sigs first show. Being kicked by Sig only enforced to Zack that he would not take alpacas to shows. I should add that while that is Zack's opinion, J and I do not share that with him. We will certainly be attending many alpaca shows in the future. We believe that we take extremely good care of our alpaca livestock, more so than most farmers do with their livestock. Like most alpaca farmers, we go above and beyond to care for them in the best way possible. Alpacas in general are cared for better than just about any other livestock. The stress of an alpaca show is nothing like the stress they would feel left in the wild, or living in less than ideal conditions. But, I do hope not to be kicked at the next show, which means work with not only halter training, but also building trust with our own alpacas.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mystery Solved

This morning we had an alpaca mystery.

We've had to juggle around our schedules since J is in the process of transitioning to a new job (he's put in his notice at his current job, his new job starts on Nov. 14). He's been working odd hours (even more so than usual), these last couple of weeks at his job. It's going to be an even bigger transition when he starts his new job, but the good news is that he will be working 1st shift! He hasn't worked 1st shift since 2003!!! Zack was 6 months old when J quit his job to go back to school and we started down a whole new path. He's worked either 3rd or 2nd shift since that point (by choice for the most part). But, J felt it was time to start sleeping at night like a normal person, and is very happy to have found a job that he wanted and is 1st shift. It all fell into place just at the right time.

J's been on 3rd shift this week, so I have been doing the morning alpaca feedings (and once he starts his new job on 1st shift, he will have to leave earlier than I do so I will be on morning feeding then too). This week is the last week before the time change so it is especially dark in the mornings. When I went outside this morning, it was pitch black out there. We have lights but they don't shine everywhere and actually make it harder for my eyes to adjust to the dark parts, so I feed them in the dark. I only use lights in the garage to scoop out the grain.

I got outside this morning with the grain bowls, starting in the young boys area. I fed Spot first, then put out bowls for Gabe and Sig, but I couldn't find Sig. It was so dark I figured he was back in the pasture and left his bowl for him. I put out bowls for Chaska and Challenger, but still Sig had not come to his bowl. I was starting to get a bit concerned. It was too dark to look far, I couldn't figure out what would keep him from eating. I feared the worst.

I then fed the girls: Twilight, Rose, Bay and Latte. They were all right there and went to their bowls. The next area I put out bowls is the full figured girls area. I had bowls for Victoria, Miss Kitty, Snickers and Jewel. I noticed an extra alpaca came into the area, in the darkness I thought it was Tehya. Then I fed the last group back by the fence: Maddie, Sancha, but then Kateri was not there, then Tehya was there - but I thought she was in with the fully figured girls? Kateri is much darker in color than Tehya so I wasn't confusing the two of them (even if they are mother and daughter). It was all a confusing mess. I had 2 missing alpacas, Kateri and Sig, and one alpaca that I saw twice, Tehya. It was like someone swapped alpacas with me but didn't tell me.

It wasn't until I went to collect bowls and let them all back into the main pasture that I figured out the mystery. When I went into the full figured girls area there were 5 alpacas in there: Victoria, Miss Kitty, Jewel and Snickers, but there was also this smaller lighter one, but it wasn't Tehya since I could see her just over in the other area - it was Sig!!! It was so dark I couldn't tell it was Sig even when I was right there next to him, but once it occurred to me that it was him, it was clear that was what happened. Somehow overnight Sig got through the fence between the boys area and the girls area. That's why he wasn't by Gabe in the boys area and that is why we had an extra alpaca in the girls area. Thankfully he's young and not interested in breeding, so no harm done.

I never did figure out where Kateri was. J called me later in the morning to ask me why Sig was in the girls area. I explained the story of the mysterious morning and that in the dark I wasn't catching and moving Sig back to the boy's area. I asked J if Kateri was there, and she was. I must have just missed her in the darkness this morning, I was pretty distracted by the entire mystery.

Who knew alpacas were such a mystery!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Great Show!

We loved having the Michigan International Alpacafest in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The venue worked really well for the alpaca stall set up. We got a lot of foot traffic through the venue on both Saturday and Sunday. It was very fun meeting people interested in alpacas and having a chance to talk to them. One of my favorite things to do is to talk alpacas!

While our own animals did not have their best show, we didn't go to this show for that reason. We had a rough summer, and knew our animals weren't in ideal shape to show their best. While they are healthy and back on track now, we would have liked to have waited until spring, when they have had a few healthy months under their belt. We would not have chosen to travel for a show. But, given we finally had a show in our own area, we just had to support it. We hauled out all our boys, even ones we weren't really planning to show again. We came home with two 2nd place ribbons, and two 5th place ribbons. Certainly not our best show, but not our worst either.

While we loved having a show so close to our own farm, we did discover the down side is that I didn't have two evenings in a hotel room with wi-fi to write up nice blog posts about our show days. Coming home each night, we had barn chores and regular family activities to attend to.
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